Three years after USA Network signaled a move into half-hour comedy with the off-network acquisition of Modern Family and three months before the ABC comedy is to launch on the cable network, USA has greenlighted its first original half-hour comedies in some 15 years: the single-camera Sirens from Denis Leary and Bob Fisher and Playing House, from Jessica St. Clair and Lennon Parham. Additionally, USA, which is holding its upfront today, has picked up single-camera half-hour comedy pilot Love Is Dead, from writer Zev Borow. USA’s other half-hour pilot, Paging Dr. Freed, is still alive. And USA is in conversations about picking up ABC comedy series Happy Endings.
Sirens and Playing House will premiere in the first quarter of 2014 as companions to Modern Family, which is set to bow on USA on September 24. “With Modern Family joining our lineup in the fall, we can leverage television’s most popular comedy to serve as a powerful launch pad for new originals in this genre,” said USA’s co-president Chris McCumber. Added co-president Jeff Wachtel, “Our new series come from some of the best comedic talent in the business, and reflect USA’s style — with great characters, strong execution and compelling storytelling.” USA ran several half-hour comedies under the network’s old regime in the 1990s, including Weird Science, USA High and Campus Cops, before USA rebuilt its brand as a home of light, character-driven hourlong series over the past decade. Read More »
Brent Montgomery’s New York-based independent reality TV production company Leftfield Pictures (Pawn Stars) has acquired Rebecca Toth Diefenbach and Valerie Haselton’s fellow independent unscripted producer Sirens Media. Headquartered in Silver Spring, MD, Sirens Media is behind Bravo’s hit docu-soap Real Housewives Of New Jersey, now in its fifth season, and has nine series in production for Discovery ID, including Who The (Bleep) Did I Marry? and Deadly Affairs, hosted by Susan Lucci. This marks the first acquisition for Leftfield, which is establishing Leftfield Entertainment, a new umbrella company that will be used to continue to expand the company’s production footprint via acquisitions, new joint ventures, and producer overall deals. According to Leftfield, this the first acquisition transaction between two independent U.S. TV production companies, and the first time a U.S. deal was financed entirely by a syndicate of banks (the deal was led by Barclays and includes RBS Citizens and SunTrust banks). Read More »
USA Network has cast the four leads in the Denis Leary comedy pilot Sirens: Michael Mosley (Pan Am, Scrubs), Kevin Daniels (Modern Family), Kevin Bigley and Jessica McNamee. Co-created by Leary and Bob Fisher, Sirens follows three of Chicago’s best EMTs — Johnny (Mosley), Hank (Daniels) and Brian (Bigley) — whose sometimes self-loathing, other times narcissistic, and always downright self-destructive personalities make them unqualified for sustaining relationships, friendships and most occupations. They are, however, uniquely qualified for saving anyone unlucky enough to wind up in their ambulance. Read More »
It took almost a year, but USA Network has closed a deal for a pilot order to single-camera comedy Paging Dr. Freed. The network has finalized the pilot pickups for both Paging Dr. Freed and the Denis Leary-produced single-camera comedy Sirens. The move is significant as it creates a deal template for half-hour series on USA, which is returning to the comedy business after more a decade. Paging Dr. Freed is from 20th TV’s Fox21, while Sirens is produced by Fox TV Studios, which also operates under the 20th TV umbrella. Read More »
Bravo today announced November premiere dates for five returning unscripted series — two Real Housewives shows, Fashion Queens, Vanderpump Rules and Shahs Of Sunset — as well as unveiling the new series Thicker Than Water. That latter series, which will debut November 10, follows Nashville’s Ben and Jewel Tankard and their blended and extended family as they live, love and laugh through the perils and pleasures of life. Real Housewives Of Beverly Hills (November 4, 8-10 PM) will introduce new castmembers, London-born Carlton Gebbia and former Miss Puerto Rico Joyce Giruad de Ohoven. The month kicks off November 3 at 8 PM with the Season 6 premiere of Real Housewives Of Atlanta. Here are the network descriptions of the new seasons and their return dates: Read More »
After focusing on comedy with series orders for Sirens and Playing House and pilot pickups for Love Is Dead and Divide & Conquer, top-rated cable network USA is making its first major move in drama this year, greenlighting an hourlong pilot from writer-producer Sean Jablonski. Produced by Universal Cable Prods., the untitled project is described as a provocative drama that follows investment banker Neil Truman and his wife Grace who are sifting through their stagnant relationship when Neil discovers that Grace is seeing a male escort and accidentally gains possession of the escort’s phone. He gains a unique perspective on his life and what motivates women, while Grace contemplates whether her needs are being met and whether her marriage is worth saving. Jablonski is executive producing the pilot with Russ Krasnoff (Community). This marks Jablonski’s return to USA and UCP where he served as executive producer/showrunner on the first season of hit drama Suits.
On the drama side, USA most recently picked up period sci-fi drama pilot Horizon last December. That project is now filming. While half-hour comedy has been a priority for USA brass in light of next month’s off-network launch of Modern Family, drama remains the network’s bread and butter, with several new hourlong pilots expected to be greenlighted shortly. Before Suits, Jablonski, repped by WME and Underground, was on FX’s Nip/Tuck for the series’ … Read More »
USA Network has hired Tracy St Pierre as VP West Coast Communications and Emily Spitale has been upped to VP Communications. Both will report to Hilary Smith, SVP Communications for the network. St Pierre was Senior Director for NBC Entertainment Publicity for the past 10 years; she will work out of LA and have oversight of USA’s West Coast-based press team. Her duties will include spearheading the launch of the network’s new original comedy series Playing House among other series, and she will help lead USA’s award campaigns and manage talent relations. Spitale, who will remain in New York, will shepherd the arrival of off-net biggie Modern Family this fall as well as the launch of new original comedy Sirens, which is set to debut in first-quarter 2014. She will continue to work on network PR strategy, award campaigns, and manage talent relations.
Greg Grunberg and Diane Farr will topline the USA Network comedy pilot Divide & Conquer, an original half-hour project from executive producer/writer Peter Ocko. USA greenlighted the Divide & Conquer pilot in May on the heels of the network making its first comedy series orders in 15 years with Sirens and Playing House and greenlighting another half-hour pilot, Love Is Dead. The original comedies are slated to premiere in first-quarter 2014 as eventual companions to Modern Family; among the newbies, Divide & Conquer is the only true family comedy that could go well with the massive off-network acquisition, which debuts September 24. Produced by Universal Cable Prods, Divide & Conquer gets into the heads of a big family: four children finding their way to adulthood in these complicated times and the parents whose lives they’re sucking dry to get there. Grunberg and Farr will play the parents: Evan is a daydreamer-turned-patent attorney who believes modern-day families are over-parenting their kids, and Charlotte is a career woman-turned-stay-at-home mom who’s trying to help her kids navigate growing up. Grunberg is repped by Resolution. Farr is repped by UTA, Silver Lining Entertainment and attorney Eric Suddleson at Nelson Felker.
As they say, for every cancelled broadcast series, like NBC’s Southland and ABC’s Cougar Town, that finds a second home, there are scores that don’t. Sony TV began exploring a possible future for its cult ABC comedy Happy Endings well in advance of the network’s May decision not to order a fourth season. USA, which is re-entering the half-hour comedy space in a big way this fall with off-network acquisition Modern Family, expressed interest dating back to early April. It entered talks with Sony immediately after ABC made the cancellation decision the Friday before upfronts. But three weeks later, I’ve learned that USA has opted not to proceed with the pickup. I hear the cable network’s brass loved the show creatively but its low ratings on ABC played a factor in the decision as it meant a large investment in marketing and promotion, money USA decided to spend on its home grown half-hour series. The network just made its first half-hour series orders in 15 years, Sirens and Playing House.
While USA was considered the only real play for Happy Endings after ABC, Sony TV is known for never giving up and finding a way to bring shows back from the dead (Unforgettable, Drop Dead Diva, Breaking In, just to name a few.) I hear the studio continues conversations with other possible distributors. With its small but rabid fan base, Happy Endings would be a good … Read More »
USA Network has greenlighted Divide & Conquer, a half-hour comedy pilot written and executive produced by Peter Ocko (Fairly Legal, The Office). The pickup comes on the heels of USA last week making its first comedy series orders in 15 years with Sirens and Playing House and greenlighting half-hour pilot Love Is Dead. USA’s original comedy strategy is built around the network’s off-network acquisition of Modern Family, which launches on USA in September. USA’s first original comedies are slated to premiere in first quarter 2014 as companions to Modern Family. Among Sirens, Playing House, Love Is Dead and Divide & Conquer, Divide & Conquer is the only true family comedy that could go well with Modern Family. Produced by Universal Cable Prods, it gets into the heads of a big family: four children finding their way to adulthood in these complicated times, and the parents whose lives they’re sucking dry to get there. In addition to its development, USA also is considering a pickup of recently cancelled cult ABC comedy Happy Endings, which looks promising, and is taking another crack at pilot Paging Dr. Freed. Ocko is with Vision Art.
USA Network unveiled its drama development slate today and said it will start production this summer on the pilot Horizon, the period genre drama from The Walking Dead producer Gale Anne Hurd that the network pushed in February. The new slate (see the full list below) includes Complications, the latest from Burn Notice‘s Matt Nix; the new Rob Thomas project Blanco County; and works from Doug Liman and David Semel. The news comes on the heels of the network’s newest original series, the Jeff Eastin-created Graceland, joining the summer drama schedule with a premiere set for June 6.
Related: USA Picks Up ‘Sirens’ And ‘Playing House’, Orders Half-Hour Pilot Read More »
Comedy is expected to take center stage at USA Network‘s upfront presentation this afternoon as the cable network touts to advertisers the fall launch of its big off-network acquisition, Modern Family, and unveils its newly picked up original comedy series Sirens and Playing House. The cable network has been getting extra attention from comedy fans in the past week following ABC’s decision last Friday to cancel cult series Happy Endings. Talks between USA and leading Happy Endings producer Sony TV continue. At this point, I hear a pickup appears unlikely but the network is carefully exploring the opportunity to migrate a show with some success on broadcast TV and a dedicated fan base the way ABC’s Cougar Town moved to TBS.
Related: ‘Happy Endings’ Cancelled At ABC, Will USA Step In?
Of its three comedy pilot/presentations it had in consideration, USA picked up two, Sirens and Playing House. The third, Paging Dr. Freed, which was the first one ordered almost two years ago, is still in contention. I hear USA brass liked the pilot for the family medical comedy but thought it felt more like a season finale and didn’t properly introduce the characters. I hear the network approached Paging Dr. Freed creator Michael Feldman and studio Fox 21 about redeveloping the project and writing a new pilot script. If USA likes the new script, I hear it is intent on picking up the project straight to series. The options on the Paging Dr. Freed producers have been extended while those on the cast have lapsed. I hear USA is keen on bringing Annie Potts back if she is available. (Her ABC pilot Murder In Manhattan did not get picked up but is being considered by cable networks.) Read More »
Laggies is the dark comedy directed by Lynne Shelton that now has Keira Knightley attached alongside Chloe Moretz and Sam Rockwell. Also getting some of this first cash is the John Travola heist pic The Forger that Solution is producing and co-financing with Code Entertainment. Here’s the release announcing the new fund, which is the latest tie-up between the Siren and the Solution who already have a genre sales label together called Synchronicity among other partnerships:
Siren Studios, a rapidly growing creative hub for entertainment production, and The Solution Entertainment Group (The Solution), the production, financing and international sales company have completed the financing on a new multi-year $50 million revolving equity fund to finance the development and production of the partners expanding slate of feature films and television product, it was announced by Siren’s Craig Chapman, Brandon Nutt and Kyle Jackson and Myles Nestel, co-founder and partner of The Solution.
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Expanding into comedic family reality series has been a priority for A&E Network. Now the network behind Duck Dynasty has greenlighted new nonfiction series Modern Dads. The project, which has received an order for eight half-hour episodes, revolves around four stay-at-home dads in Austin. It follows their exploits as they navigate manhood. juggling the requirements and social expectations of being both a “modern man” and “modern dad”. Sirens Media is producing, with Rebecca Toth Diefenbach, Valerie Haselton Drescher, Jen Mayer Kulp, Lucilla D’Agostino and Adam Paul executive producing.
Unscripted TV producer and executive Nick Rigg and Leftfield Entertainment, the production company behind History’s Pawn Stars franchise and Bravo’s The Real Housewives Of New Jersey have formed a new joint venture: Loud TV. The entertainment and production company, based in New York, will create a broad range of unscripted television and digital content, including branded entertainment. It has hired Julian Locke as EVP and Lauren Deen as SVP, lifestyle development. Both executives worked previously with Rigg at Leopard Films USA (House Hunters International), where Rigg was president from 2005 through early 2013, growing the company from a single pilot to producing more than 200 hours of programming a year. “As a producer and executive for 15 years, it’s been my goal to create a new company that will produce original content across a range of genres, and to assemble a team of nimble, dedicated and highly talented people with the experience and guts to execute their creative visions.” Added Leftfield CEO/producer Brent Montgomery, “We are excited to follow our recent acquisition of Sirens Media with the establishment of Loud TV, and know that Nick Rigg is the best possible person to lead the charge.”
USA Network continues its push in half-hour comedy. The cable network has bought Smother, a project from writers Jeremy Miller & Dan Cohn, Universal TV and Peter Traugott’s studio-based TBD Prods about a 30-year-old man who has three moms after his mother and father both marry other women. When he has to go back to living at home, all three moms take control of his financial, professional and personal life. Miller and Cohn executive produce alongside Traugott and Rachel Kaplan of TBD, Brad Epstein of Panther Films and Margaret Riley of Brillstein Entertainment Partners. Traugott and Riley began working on the idea while Traugott was still at Brillstein, with the project ultimately landing at Uni TV after Traugott set up shop there. Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Denis Leary has been set to star in Draft Day, the Ivan Reitman-directed football film that stars Kevin Costner and Jennifer Garner. Pic’s getting underway through Lionsgate and Gigi Pritzker’s OddLot Entertainment. Leary will play Vince Penn, the new head coach of the Cleveland Browns, who finds himself at odds with the team’s GM (Costner). It adds extra pressure as the GM attempts to make the right picks to lift the franchise through the NFL draft. There was a ticking clock on this casting, because part of the film will be shot at the April 25 draft to be held in Radio City Music Hall. As originally constituted in the Black List script by Scott Rothman and Rajiv Joseph, the team was supposed to be the Buffalo Bills, but Lionsgate got better incentives in Ohio and made it the Cleveland Browns. Leary has been co-executive producing IFC’s Maron and is co-writing and producing Sirens, the pilot for USA Network. His Apostle banner also produced the Detroit firefighter documentary Burn, which won the Audience Award at last year’s Tribeca Film Festival. He is represented by WME and Ziffren.
Bravo Media today unveiled what it says is its largest slate of original programming ever with 17 newly greenlighted and 18 returning unscripted series. That is a 15% increase over last year. Bravo also announced three new scripted and three unscripted projects in development. Bravo’s first scripted pilot, Rita, is now in production as the network is eying a launch of its first scripted series in the fourth quarter. (Bravo’s second scripted pilot, The Joneses, did not go to production.) Bravo logged its seventh consecutive year of ratings growth in 2012 and is currently running up vs. last year in total viewers and the 18-49 and 25-54 demographics. “Bravo’s ongoing investment in high-quality original content across every platform continues to drive our growth year-over-year,” said Frances Berwick, President of Bravo and Style Media. Bravo, which recently moved under the oversight of NBCU cable maven Bonnie Hammer, also is expanding its multi-screen initiatives and increasing the number of TV360 deals. The network’s slate introduced today indicates that creatively, Bravo is staying the course, at least for now. Here are the details on new and returning series and projects in development:
NEW SERIES GREENLIGHTS:
“Below Deck” – Summer 2013
Produced by 51 Minds with Mark Cronin and Courtland Cox as Executive Producers.
The upstairs and downstairs worlds collide when this young and single crew, known as “yachties,” live, love and work together onboard a privately owned extravagant yacht. Working and tending to the ever-changing needs of their demanding charter guests is not always smooth sailing. Read More »
Abbey Robertson has joined Apostle Management, the management division of Denis Leary and Jim Serpico’s production company Apostle. Robertson, who was a manager at The Collective, joins George Heller in Apostle’s Los Angeles office. Prior to that, she was the co-founder with Melody Hammer of Adept Entertainment, a management and production company. Robertson’s focus will be on creating crossover opportunities for Apostle’s stable of actors, comedians and stand-ups, which includes Robert Kelly, Louis Katz, Nate Bargatze and Erin Foley. “Abbey has a great eye for talent and is well respected in the community,” Serpico said. Apostle’s TV division is posting new IFC series Maron, which will debut May 3, and recently finished half-hour USA pilot Sirens, co-written by Leary.